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MARC ILES' BIG MATCH VERDICT: Bolton Wanderers 0-3 Nottingham Forest

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karlypants

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Those who stayed behind after Nottingham Forest’s third goal did so out of morbid duty.

Staring around the University of Bolton Stadium at half time, faces of the fans dotted around swathes of empty seats had expressions of genuine concern and frustration – and rightly so.

At no stage did it look as if Wanderers would better their expensively-assembled opponents, and not for the first time on home turf a return of just one shot on target represented very little value to the paying customer.

Forest had waited 40 years to drive away from Bolton with three points and though this team is nothing like the vintage of that of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor, it does look quite capable of challenging for promotion.

Two goals for Lewis Grabban – who could also afford to miss a penalty – and another for Joe Lolley provided an indication of the class gap on show.

Players in white who left the pitch applauded the supporters who had stayed behind but had to search for those who reciprocated.

Parkinson’s plan took a dent even before kick off when Pawel Olkowski withdrew from the squad with a stomach virus. The Pole had missed training but had been named on the team sheet.

His replacement, Mark Little, was one of five changes to the team which drew at Rotherham United. Josh Vela, Yanic Wildschut, Craig Noone and Andy Taylor came in for Lloyd Dyer, Gary O’Neil, Clayton Donaldson and Marc Wilson.

Faced with mounting criticism over the lack of attacking football at home, the inclusion of wide men Wildschut and Noone was no doubt made in hope one or both could add a touch of flair to a workmanlike midfield.

Sadly, neither really lived up to that billing. And while Wildschut’s night degenerated into a familiar mess of inconsistency, forcing his substitution at the break, the normally-reliable Noone also endured a poor first half.

Heeding the pre-match message from Parkinson and his staff, Wanderers did look to press early on but their eagerness almost played into Forest’s hands.

With Adiene Guedioura and Joao Carvalho pulling the strings, the counter attack looked on right away.

So it proved, as a quick break down the left – exploiting space behind Noone – allowed Lolley to take full advantage 12 minutes in, combining with Guedioura and Grabban then finishing superbly past Ben Alnwick.

For 10 minutes the jitters set in for Bolton as passes went astray and the familiar moans and groans returned.

First-team coach Julian Darby took a position on the gantry before kick off and when Taylor surrendered possession close to his own penalty box on the half-hour mark, he would have seen a swarm of 10 Bolton players behind the ball – Josh Magennis the notable exception on halfway.

Such a defensive picture has not helped Parkinson’s cause.

Forest did show signs of vulnerability, with three of the four protagonists changed from the weekend defeat against Norwich, but were not placed under nearly enough pressure.

Lucky for Bolton, the visitors started to coast somewhat in the last 20 minutes of the half. Had someone got a touch on Magennis’s header from Vela’s corner just before the interval, the grumbles heard at the referee’s whistle may have disappeared altogether.

Clayton Donaldson replaced the hapless Wildschut for the second half, where Wanderers showed some renewed purpose.

A succession of set-pieces put Forest on the back foot. One fine cross from Joe Williams was inches away from picking out Donaldson at the far post.

Referee Andy Davies then offered the Midlanders a chance to relieve all the pressure. Alnwick made a full-length stop to push away Gil Dias’s stinging shot but, as Little attempted to win the rebound, he was adjudged to have clipped Grabban’s heels.

Wanderers fans were incensed. But the jeers turned to cheers as Alnwick dived to push Grabban’s penalty round the post.

On Saturday, Magennis’s missed penalty had sent Bolton into a spiral of uncertainty at Rotherham. Not so with Forest.

Not even eight minutes after he had missed from the spot, £6million striker Grabban was racing on to Carvalho’s through ball and slotting it into the bottom corner to put the game well beyond sight.

Parkinson reacted by throwing on Erhun Oztumer, then Christian Doidge, in an effort to get some momentum. In truth, the changes felt like they were 10 minutes too late.

Forest stretched their lead with another penalty. Alnwick made another sprawling save to push away Cash’s shot but could not mop up the rebound, to which Grabban reacted quick as a flash and was sent flying by the flailing keeper.

Once again the former Bournemouth striker picked up the ball and placed it on the spot, this time rolling it into the bottom corner to spark a mass exit from the home fans.

Such was the margin and manner of defeat, one wonders how many will readily return on Saturday against Hull City.

Watching Wanderers has become hard work, all of a sudden.

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